Family members would often take turns standing in the front windows of their homes where they mimed laughter in the desperate hope that the Christmas Boy would pass them by. He rarely did. Once inside a home, he would sniff or lick the occupants for signs of stress or unhappiness.The Christmas Boy rarely found what he would deem a legally cheerful family and harsh punishments, which varied, were often meted out on the spot.
Families did not usually realise that they had been visited by the Christmas Boy until an hour or two after he had left because his flute was designed to have soporific effects. When these effects wore off, families might find that one or more members had been removed or that broad grins had been fixed on their faces following minor surgery.